Ohio State Names Larry Johnson Assistant Head Coach

By Kyle Rowland on January 15, 2014 at 5:27p

Last week, Ohio State received a major surprise when defensive line coach Mike Vrabel bolted for the NFL. In just three seasons as a Buckeye assistant, Vrabel built a strong rapport with recruits and became one of the top recruiters in the Big Ten. His loss was significantly lessened with the hire of longtime Penn State assistant Larry Johnson Sr.

Johnson was named assistant head coach and defensive line coach for the Buckeyes Wednesday afternoon.

“In just a few hours I can tell that Ohio State cares about football,” Johnson said in a statement. “There is a winning tradition that is important here. They care about academics and they care about players, and I like the way Coach Urban Meyer approaches things. He’s a great teacher. He is very organized and this is what I was looking for.

“And I am really impressed with the Ohio State players. I just met a group of players, walked out of the room and thought, ‘wow,’ these are the kinds of players I want to coach. They were really impressive.”

Johnson’s spent all 18 seasons of his college coaching career at Penn State, where he was the last link to the Joe Paterno era until he opted not to accept a position on James Franklin’s staff. Johnson was the defensive ends/special teams coach from 1996-99 and the defensive line coach the past 14 seasons.

During his time in State College, Johnson quickly evolved into one of the sport’s most respected figures – on and off the field. His ability to connect with prospects has made him one of the top recruiters in the country. In 2006, Rivals.com named Johnson its recruiter of the year.

“I am very pleased that Larry Johnson is an Ohio State Buckeye,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “I have great respect for him as a family man, as a coach and mentor of young men, and as a recruiter. He is an outstanding addition to our coaching staff.”

Johnson coached seven first-team All-Americans at Penn State, including first-round draft picks Courtney Brown (No. 1 overall), Tamba Hali, Jared Odrick, Michael Haynes, Aaron Maybin and Jimmy Kennedy. Fifteen defensive linemen earned first-team all-conference honors under Johnson. 

In recent seasons, Johnson turned down two offers to be a defensive coordinator elsewhere. In 2008, Illinois offered him the defensive coordinator position, which would have doubled his salary. He said no again in 2011, this time to be Maryland. 

It was reported that Johnson was frustrated after being passed over twice for the head-coaching job, leading to his departure from Penn State.

Larry Johnson Jr.'s Career
Year(s) School Role(s)
2014 Ohio State Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line
2000-13 Penn State Defensive Line
1996-99 Penn State Defensive Ends/Special teams
1992-93 T.C. Williams H.S. Head Coach
1975-91 McDonough H.S. Head Coach
1974 Lackey H.S. Assistant Coach

“Getting promoted isn’t the issue to me,” Johnson told ESPN.com. “At the end of the day, it’s giving Coach Franklin the chance to move forward. It’s his program, his coaching staff and, yes, he offered me the opportunity to stay.

“But at the end of the day, I thought what would be best for me – and be unselfish – is the fact that let’s move forward. That’s my decision. It had nothing do with a job, or not giving me a promotion.”

In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Johnson spent a combined 19 seasons as head coach at Maurice J. McDonough High School and T.C. Williams High School in suburban Washington, D.C. He was a six-time coach of the year in the nation's capital and won three state championships. The Greater Washington area is one of Johnson’s strongholds in recruiting.

At Ohio State, Johnson will coach two players he recruited heavily: Tommy Schutt and Noah Spence.

One current Buckeye who was recruited by Johnson was asked if he was happy with the hiring, and answered, “Yeah, absolutely.”

“I’m a relationship guy and I think in order to get the best out of your players you have to develop relationships,” Johnson said. “I’m also a teacher. I like to teach the basic fundamentals of football. I want guys who are fundamentally sound and have the ability to play fast and to play relentless.”


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Seattle Linga's picture

Great Job Meyer - let's get the ball rolling towards NSD and beyond !!

Geraffi's picture

I'm happy, too. Go Bucks!

Urbz4President's picture

Assistant HEAD coach? 

KevinJ's picture

That's what she said!

Crimson's picture

Ohio State Names Larry Johnson Assistant Head Coach

Crap!  Now Urban is going to suck at being a head coach, since we have an assistant head coach.  I won't even know who to yell at if the team performs badly, Urban or Larry.
I couldn't resist.

otrain2416's picture

These titles crack me up Stan Drayton was listed as assistant head coach for the offense last year. Now does Johnson become assistant head coach for the defense or does Drayton's title get dropped? 

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

Jordan Wagner's picture

Withers was assistant head coach of defense last season. Larry Johnson is simply picking up this title, as expected. 

cuttyrock's picture

No co dc but assistant head coach. This doesn't seem to bode well for Luke Fickell play calling duties. Ash is a co dc and Johnson is an assistant head coach of the defense. He may have been passed over twice. Just a thought given the information.

Jordan Wagner's picture

Wouldn't this be like saying Tom Herman should be worried about his play calling duties? Stan Drayton is assistant head coach and Ed Warinner is co-OC. I wouldn't read too much into the titles. The title I'm wondering about is whether or not Ash will indeed be named secondary coach. Does Coombs move to just special teams? 

Kyle Rowland's picture

Jordan is spot-on here. This is basically just to get Johnson more money. A majority of the time, titles come down to money and allowing the coach to be more attractive for a head-coaching gig.

d5k's picture

So basically he decided that he could stay on at PSU under a completely new staff and basically start over or start over for more money with Urban, who wanted him big time rather than just giving a courtesy offer.

D-Day0043's picture

Those were my thoughts exactly. I think Coombs would better serve this team if he just focused specifically on special teams.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

buckeyedude's picture

I'd like to see Coombs promoted strictly to recruiting and motivational speaker.



FLAMikey's picture

Agree with Jordan,  the Coombs question interests me. No one seems to have the answer to this one (Tim May says he doesn't know).  

CowCat's picture

No offense to coach Coombs -- the guy is a great coach.
But I think having one coach with one system and one set of evaluations for all of the DBs would be ideal.
Coach Coombs could then focus all of his energy on making special teams the best in the nation instead of splitting time between two units.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

d5k's picture

And Warrinner is a Co-OC while Drayton is Asst HC of the offense.  Is Herman losing play calling duties as well?
Stop reading into the titles please people.  
Edit: ninja'd by staff almost word-for-word.  awesome

TilstheHun3's picture

+1... it happens to all of us

What is this? A center for ants?!? How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read if they can't even fit inside the building?

buckeyejohnny's picture

Or is it Assistant to the Head Coach?


I think there have been several comments before that UFM wants continuity since his staff are only asked to commit for 2 years, so though we don't like the idea of 'co-' coordinators, I think the titles are more to do with preserving his system at OSU (or any place he would go).  
That said, there may also be the benefits of being able to have a higher ceiling for compensation while retaining a coordinator's role/responsibility when given the added titles.  Most importantly, it helps him delegate and manage rather than do everything himself, and go home to his family.

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

teddyballgame's picture

Sounds good to me.  Love the addition of Coach Johnson!

cuttyrock's picture

I'm excited about this hire. I expect big things.

BoFuquel's picture

Stick'em Big Johnson. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Seattle Linga's picture

Or Big "Stick" Johnson 

NoVA Buckeye's picture

Had no idea Johnson coached HS in the DC area

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.


T.C. Williams is that school from "Remember the Titans" isn't it? Very cool he coached there.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

GABuckeye's picture

You would be correct.

d5k's picture

Most people don't want to jump to the conclusion but I will bite, this is a significant upgrade over Mike Vrabel.  Vrabel no doubt was a great recruiter but a highly inexperienced coach who is still cutting his teeth.  He also may surpass a guy like LJSr some day.  But not only is LJSr one of the best D-line coaches in the country, he is an elite recruiter.  We really got lucky with this one.  I also expect he will be here for a while.
I am highly anticipating how guys like Bosa and Spence look next year after refining their craft under Johnson.

HotSauceCommittee's picture

I think this thought has crossed many of our minds but we have kept it undercover. Obviously, Vrabel was the ultimate Bro, crazy energy, playing experience, titles, etc. but  he was still learning his craft. Johnson might be able to improve the dline. Time will tell. 
All that being said, I welcome Coach Johnson but will miss the HELL out of Vrabel and wish we could have retained him. 

CptBuckeye24's picture

I was pretty pleased with our DL play this year.  I think it really surprised Meyer.  Spence had a breakout year and led the team in sacks, 1st/2nd team All-Big 10.  Bennett was 2nd team All Big Ten.  Bennett really got it together and played great.  And Bosa, wow, the future is really bright for him. 
Vrabel is a guy that nobody really wanted to see get away.  We shall see if he makes it back to OSU.  On a side note, I think Vrabel has HC potential in him...

Nutinpa's picture

Just for the sake of argument, 24, I will offer a different point of view about the DL, while wishing Vrabel all the best as he is a great Buckeye.  That aside, here is why I am excited about Coach Johnson:
Yes, Bosa is a beast.  He was the MVP of that line...as a Frosh. What could that be saying?
Spence was a very good pass rusher; as a run stopper...he was soft. Expect teams to run right at him next year to avoid Bosa.  If Coach LJ doesn't improve Spence's technique, he'll get pancaked by good O Linemen...often.  He needs to improve.
Washington and Bennett?  They plateaued.  How often did either of them require a double-team? Not often.  Which is why our LBs did not often get to make clean plays and our DBs were often in run support while getting their azzes burned on deep passes.
Schutt and Hale?  The verdict is still out.
Miller? Did not distinguish himself vs. Clemson while Bosa was out.
Marcus?  With a 2 game head start, he should push Spence hard for PT next year; of course, Coach LJ's heart will be with Spence, but Marcus showed me a lot vs. Clemson and played the run better than Spence did all year.
So?  While the DL was the bright spot on the D last year....that wasn't saying much. The addition of LJ to his coaching staff cannot be overstated while Fickell cleans up the dumpster fire at LB.

CptBuckeye24's picture

This team had to replace all 4 starters on the DL this year.  And considering how they were 3rd in the nation with 42 sacks, is pretty impressive.  They played a lot of 1st and 2nd year players on the DL. 
Consider this:  Washington, Spence, Bosa, Carter, Marcus, and Schutt were either backups or still in HS.  These guys are still physically growing, maturing, and developing their bodies into the collegiate level. 
Bosa was a monster and Vrabel deserves a lot of credit for his development. 
Spence is a great pass rusher who played his freshman year at 225.  he is still growing and another year in Marotti's program will help him out.  He has a lot of potential.  Combining his potential, Coach Johnson, Coach Marotti, and still learning the game, he will get better.  No doubt he needs to improve against the run but I think he will.
Washington got hurt, outplayed by Bosa, and never really seemed to recover.  I think he is better suited to play inside. 
As for Bennett, he had a great first half and you are right.  Somewhere between Iowa and Purdue is where it tailed off.  He needs to finish. 
Hale is solid but unspectacular.  Schutt missed the first half of the season and idk what to say about him other than he should be developing this spring. 
Chris Carter had a good year.  He's a big man with space eating ability.  Meyer called him out and it appears the light has finally come on for him.  He earned some snaps.  Conditioning is/was an issue for him but still, he improved. 
Marcus is a great player and definitely earned his reps.
It is very hard to get DL to an elite level with young, inexperienced players.  Our DL play was not elite, and idk if anyone expected it to be, but it was certainly pretty good.  Our run defense ranked 9th in the country.  While our pass D was weak, our run D held its own pretty well. 
Our DL figures to be 10-13 deep this year.  There is talent.  I truly expect it to be elite.  But the progress that it made was tremendous and it took a big leap.  There is a lot here and Coach Johnson has to be very excited when looking at our DL. 

Nutinpa's picture

Nice counterpoint, 24.  Let's hope they flourish.

d5k's picture

I did not say I saw problems in the D line that LJ Sr will solve but instead he may take a good unit and make them dominant.  They are young and would have got even better under Vrabel as well, I just have a ton of confidence with LJ that these guys are going to be fundamentally rock solid.

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Great, gutsy post. Absolutely what a lot of people were thinking, but perhaps didn't want to post to seem insensitive. I used to dread reading about Johnson going after a recruit and was consistently impressed with Penn State d-linemen. Anyone who does not think this is the very definition of a 'homerun' hire hasn't done their homework.

Exhortera's picture

“In just a few hours I can tell that Ohio State cares about football,” Johnson said in a statement.

You haven't seen anything yet, Coach!

Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed - totally different mind set for the players, coaches and fans!

+1 HS
osu07asu10's picture

Welcome home Coach Johnson!

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

tosubuckeye's picture

Awesome hire. I'm just glad we got him.  GO BUCKS!!!!



JOhio1560's picture

Great news!  I was glad when the hire was announced but I find it sweeter now that it's official.  I really like this hire and I think Johnson will do a great job.

I'm not finished!  Before we let you leave, your commander must cross that field, present himself before this army, put his head between his legs, and kiss his own arse.

DenBuck's picture

I was curious how old he is, 62. He's been around a while. Hopefully we are his last stop. 

Buckeye For Life

dlb72osu's picture

BTW, whereas we all think it would be best if MV could be the DLC forever, tOSU did very well in this circumstance.
I would imagine Coach Johnson realizes at this stage he probably is never going to be a HC at a major D1 school but certainly would like to put a crown jewel on his legacy. Looking around he can see the possibility of obtaining the NC ring would best be served at tOSU. And through attrition at his specialty, tOSU just happens to have a need that he can fill very nicely.
Speculation, but just sayin'.

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

- Invictus

NW Buckeye's picture

But, but several 11W posters told us that this is a bad hire!  Who are we to believe?
Welcome to Columbus LJ.  

Boom777's picture

Fundamentals!!!!! YES

Wherever you are, there you be!

D-Day0043's picture

Just keep our boys away from D.J. Larry Jr. and the strip club down there in Florida. We don't need any boats and ho's incidents.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

CptBuckeye24's picture

Johnson has a lot of talent to work with.  We figure to be about 10-13 deep at DL this year.
That is impressive depth. 

GoBucksToledo's picture

..and would like to see them rotated in regularly to keep the pressure on O-lines and the quarterback.

Ginger_buckeye's picture

I agree but it has been more difficult for the defense to sub in and out with these up tempo offenses teams are running although there aren't too many big ten teams running it

We don't give a d*** for the whole state of M*******

buckeyejma's picture

gr8 coach for the good guys, Urban pulled the rabbit outta the hat on this hire, just a comment has to the age, people are living longer these days 62 these days is like being in mid to upper thirty's so coach Johnson if he wishes and stays in good health could give us 10 years.
O-H.... Go Bucks

Step aside Nick, Urban is the real rock star!

CptBuckeye24's picture

T.C. Williams.  That is the HS in Remember the Titans.

AltaBuck's picture

Why did they delete this scene?


I am Groot - Groot

GoBucksToledo's picture

ALWAYS loved that scene...Buckeyes all the way!

TilstheHun3's picture

I didn't know this exists... thank you sooo much, this honestly made my night! Love that movie!

What is this? A center for ants?!? How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read if they can't even fit inside the building?

nm_buck's picture

Man o man... I had no idea that was in the movie... wonder why it didn't make the final cut... 
editor was probably from scUM

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

another-navy-buckeye's picture

I seriously did not know that existed either. Makes me want to watch the movie all over again. Awesome, made my day as well.


BuckToAsT's picture

That damn car accident left us with one less All-American linebacker!

Seattle Linga's picture

We'd be hanging another NC banner if only...........

D-Day0043's picture

I think there is a deleted scene in Forest Gump where he says, "I'm not a smart man, but I do know that Michigan sucks."
Well maybe there's not... but there should be.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

Whoa Nellie's picture

Another famous movie scene from the cutting room floor:

“Don’t fear criticism. The stands are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down on the field are the doers, they make mistakes because they attempt many things.”

BuckeyeStrong2's picture

I was told this scene was only in the TV version of the movie and not the DVD version. I will have to bust out the DVD sometime and see if it is in any bonus footage.


Ginger_buckeye's picture

I know I'm the 100th one to say it but I had nooooo idea that scene existed 

We don't give a d*** for the whole state of M*******

DMcDougal24's picture

How have I never seen this?? Thanks

okiebuck's picture

I just love the way Urban says; "I am very pleased that Larry Johnson is an Ohio State Buckeye".

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

CptBuckeye24's picture

Who DVs something like this?

lippertini's picture

Lots of mobile phone fat-fingers, could be one of those.  I added an upvote for universal equilibrium...

BuckeyeRealist13's picture

Is that THE T.C. Williams High School? LIke the T.C. Williams from Remember the Titans?

"You're damn right thats daddy" - Urban Meyer 

CowCat's picture

Yep, and that gives Larry Johnson a lot of cred to me.
I attended TC Williams  as a kid for about a month when my family was looking for more permanent housing.
It was a nice school -- very racially mixed but normal and mellow-- not like the Baltimore schools I attended just after. Lol.
Remember the Titans is one of my favorite movies ever.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

GH_Lindsey's picture

I like this move. I think Johnson's experience and maturity as a coach will help this relatively young staff a lot.

CincyBuckeye31's picture

Thomas Holley flipped to Florida.  FYI.

TilstheHun3's picture

What is this? A center for ants?!? How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read if they can't even fit inside the building?

CincyBuckeye31's picture

Sorry I wasn't on those threads...so thanks.....................

sharks's picture

Anyone know what happened at TC Williams HS?  He was there a year then didn't coach for the next three?

A man got to have a code...

Crumb's picture

That's a pretty good endorsement, I don't imagine he'll be here more than a couple of seasons but I'm excited to see how Coach Johnson works out!! Go Bucks!

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

Mizzillion's picture

Bill King is a fan....